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Maximize Your Tomato Harvest

Grow your best crop of tomatoes yet by extending the beginning and end of the season.

Jump start the season and shorten the number of days to harvest by warming the soil and air. Floating row covers and cloches work like mini greenhouses in the garden. Or make your own from a plastic milk jug. Just remove the bottom and set it over the small transplants. Or wrap tomato cages with clear plastic for large plants.

Extend the harvest season with a bit of frost protection. Those first few frosts are often followed by several weeks of great weather.

Don’t let your unripe tomatoes go to waste.  Pick any tomatoes that are starting to show color and finish ripening them indoors. Store them in a cool, 60- to 65-degree, location to extend their storage life. Speed ripening by moving them into a warm bright location a few days before they're needed.

A bit more information: Further speed up your harvest by growing early ripening tomato varieties like Early Cascade, Early Girl, 4th of July, Champion and Mountain Spring. Short season tomatoes that tolerate cooler temperatures are a good choice for those with a short growing season. Gardeners in southern areas with hot summers can try heat tolerant tomatoes like Summer Set, Heat Master and Solar Flare.

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